Will the European Union phase out animal testing–or export it?

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2005:

BRUSSELS–Trade associations representing
the animal health, bio tech, chemical,
cosmetic, pesticide, pharmaceutical, and soap
and detergent sectors on November 11, 2005
signed a pledge to jointly seek alternatives to
animal testing. The agreement was brokered by
European commissioners for enterprise and
research Günter Verheugen and Janez Potoènik.
“We do not only wish to reduce animal
testing, but also want to bring it to an end in
the long run,” declared Verheugen.
The signatories committed themselves to
producing an action plan early in 2006,
Sebastian Marx of the cosmetics trade group
COLIPA told Stephen Pincock of The Scientist.
European Union laboratories currently use about
10.7 million animals per year.
“More than half of these are used in
research, human medicine, dentistry, and
fundamental biological studies,” wrote Pincock.

“Another 16 percent are used in production and
quality control,” associated with making human
health care products. About 10% are used “for
toxicology and other types of safety evaluation,”
Pincock added.
The new declaration comes 19 years after
the European Union adopted a directive calling
for the use of alternatives to animal
experimentation wherever they exist.
“The timing of the current initiative had a lot
to do with another proposed EU directive that
could have the opposite effect,” Pincock noted.
“That proposal, under debate at the moment, is
Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of
Chemical Substances, a framework designed to
gather better information on chemicals that
reached the market before 1981.”
REACH parallels the High Product-ion
Volume testing program underway in the U.S. since
1998. If not amended, REACH could potentially
require Britain alone to perform tests on as many
as 6.5 million animals, British rural affairs
minister Alun Michael told Parliament in March
2004.
But British chemical product
manufacturers do not seem to be rushing to do the
tests–at least not in Britain.
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical
Industry in April 2005 published figures showing
that investment in British-based research dropped
from £3.3 billion in 2003 to £3.2 billion in
2003, after years of annual increases.
Home Office data shows that British laboratory
use of nonhuman primates declined 12% in 2004.
About 70% of the nonhuman primates used in
British labs are part of toxicology studies done
to test pharmaceuticals.
Expecting the trend away from nonhuman primate
research to accelerate, Cambridge University in
January 2004 cancelled plans to build a new
primate lab.
In March 2005 the Academy of Medical Sciences,
the Medical Research Council, the Royal Society,
and the Wellcome Trust jointly appointed a
scientific panel to assess the future of nonhuman
primate research in Britain.
“Countries such as China, India, and Singapore
are increasingly trying to tempt pharmaceutical
companies to move their research to their
shores,” noted Heather Tomlinson of The Guardian.
The strongest sales point for China and
Singapore is that neither nation tolerates
militant protest.
“Africa’s laboratories are [also] wooing
western firms hit by violent protests with the
promise of a more comfortable atmosphere,” wrote
Mike Pflanz of The Guardian on October 5, 2005.
“Tempted by the offer, drug companies are moving
their research to Kenya, Gabon, and South
Africa.”
Pflanz visited the 200-acre Institute of Primate
Research in Nairobi. Founded by
paleo-anthropologist Louis Leakey in 1960, to
study human evolution through experiments on
baboons, the IPR is now moving with the support
of the Kenyan livestock ministry to attract
investment from European drug makers.
“Hundreds of university researchers from
Belgium, Sweden, America and Britain have
already collaborated with the IPR,” Pflanz
reported.
Said IPR director Emmanuel Wango, “Our
costs are almost a tenth of those in America and
we have a much more comfortable way of working.
We have everything you need to work to the same
standards, but without people trying to
petrol-bomb your family.”
Gasoline bombings of protest targets have
come at a rate of about one every other month in
Britain during the past several years. British
protesters visited the homes of directors and
employees of companies involved in research 259
times altogether in 2003, and 158 times during
the first nine months of 2004.
Protestors converged on directors and
employees’ homes only 11 times during the last
quarter of 2004, after Oxford University won a
series of injunctions against activists accused
of intimidating or harassing staff and
construction workers who are building a new
animal research complex. The job was suspended
for several months in 2004 when the major
contractors withdrew due to vandalism and
harassment.
Despite the injunctions, police reports
of threatening and abusive calls from protesters
nearly tripled. Reported property damage by
protesters rose from 60 cases in 2002 to 177 in
2004, plus 35 in the first quarter of 2005.
“Kenya will benefit from the fallout
between scientists and animal rights activists in
the U.S. and Europe,” confirmed Arthur Okwemba
of the Nairobi newspaper The Nation on October 6,
2005. “Already the IPR is drafting policies
that will allow its scientists to work with
interested [foreign] parties while ensuring
maximum benefits to Kenya, including technology
transfer and patent ownership.”
Okwema noted that the IPR is “planning to
increase the price of using one baboon” to
approximately double the current rate, or about
a third of the cost of doing the same experiment
in the U.S. The per day cost of keeping a baboon
is about 20% of the U.S. cost in Kenya, Okwema
found. “In addition to this,” Okwema said,
“research institutions can tap cheaper labor in
Kenya. A highly trained scientist in Kenya works
for 25% or less than the wage commanded by one
with similar qualifications in the U.S. or Europe.
“The only reason why many pharmaceutical
companies and other research institutions have
not taken advantage of this,” according to
Okwema, “is because of the poor scientific
infrastructure prevailing in some local
institutions.”
However, Okwema reported, “some
[investors] have expressed interest in helping
set up high quality laboratories.”
“We are not happy about this at all,”
commented Kenya SPCA executive director Jean
Gilchrist.
The Indian biotech sector has moved even more ambitiously.
Near Mumbai, the Indian Council of Medical
Research, Council for Scientific & Industrial
Research, Department of Science & Technology,
and Department of Biotechnology are collaborating
to build the first facility in India dedicated to
primate studies, with $3 million worth of help
from the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
The in-house breeding colony is to begin
receiving monkeys in 2006. The labs, including
some devoted to HIV and stem cell research, are
to be completed by 2012.
“The dedicated primate facility, where
new drugs and vaccines can be tested on monkeys,
will be of importance to the biotech and
pharmaceutical industry,” wrote Kalyan Ray of
the Deccan Herald on October 5, 2005. “The
Mumbai facility will complement another Indian
Council of Medical Research complex near
Hyderabad, for which Andhra Pradesh government
has already sanctioned lands,” Ray added. “The
National Animal Resource Facility,” as the
Hyderabad complex is called, “is likely to house
cats, dogs, and horses.”
India has strong animal protection laws on paper,
but trying to enforce them in labs cost former
minister for animal welfare Maneka Gandhi her job
in July 2002.
The relevant regulations and supervisory
structure have since been weakened.
India is already among the world leaders
in research on human subjects, typically youth
of limited education and job prospects but
crushing family responsibilities. Often they
have little understanding of either the risks
they may be taking or their rights.
“Girls in this situation would be pushed
into prostitution. Boys abuse their bodies in a
different way,” Shah-e-Alam community activist
Rafi Malek recently told Radha Sharma and Sachin
Sharma of the Times of India.
Brazil, on the other hand, has
historically had both weak animal protection laws
and weak enforcement–but a September 28, 2005
ruling by Judge Edmundo Lúcio da Cruz of the
Brazilian 9th Criminal Court that a chimpanzee
was eligible for a writ of habeas corpus may send
biotech investment to Africa and Asia if it is
not overturned. According to Correio da Bahia
writer Ciro Brigham, attorneys Heron José de
Santana and Luciano Rocha Santana sought the writ
of habeas corpus on behalf of Suica, 23, a
chimp resident of the Salvador Zoo, who had
exhibited symptoms of depression since the May
2005 cancer death of her companion Geron. Suica
died, unfortunately, one day before Judge Cruz
issued his verdict.
The Cruz ruling is believed to have been
the first in the world in which a judge found a
chimpanzee to be close enough kin to humans to
deserve human rights.
“It is well known that the penal right to
due process is not static, but rather subject to
constant change, where new decisions must be
adapted to modern times,” Judge Cruz wrote.
Historically, Africa, Southeast Asia,
and Latin America have participated in primate
research chiefly as suppliers of specimens, at
first mostly captured from the wild. Later, for
a combination of conservation reasons and concern
that wild-caught monkeys might bring diseases
such as Ebola virus into the U.S., the U.S.
required that most imported monkeys be
captive-bred–but the requirement has been
violated in several high-profile cases brought to
light chiefly by the International Primate
Protection League.
Early attempts to establish primate
research labs in economically disadvantaged
nations mostly failed, for reasons including
local shortages of skilled labor and political
instability. Patas monkeys and rhesus macaques
taken to Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands
for breeding and research more than 70 years ago
escaped to establish occasionally problematic
feral colonies.
Now nations with monkeys and growing numbers of
educated citizens see renewed opportunity to
vault ahead of the developed world in
biotechnological research.
“We see researchers going offshore as one
of the major problems facing primates used in
experiments,” editorialized Australian activist
Lynette Shanley in the November 2005 Primates
Helping Primates newsletter.
“If primate users in Australia want to
use large numbers, then their best and cheapest
chance is to go offshore. Australia banned the
import of wild-caught primates for research 22-23
years ago,” Shanley continued. “No wild-caught
primates have been imported in all that time. In
the last 15 years only one researcher has
imported primates,” funded by the U.S. National
Institutes of Health, “and all these primates
were captive born. He stopped importing primates
almost three years ago.”
Yet this is far from a victory over
primate experimentation, Shanley continued.
“Many of the countries that our
researchers visit do not have animal welfare
laws,” Shanley pointed out. “One could make a
case that if researchers are going to use
primates, allowing imports is in the primates’
interest. At least in Australia some welfare
concerns such as the use of analgesics [to
relieve pain] can be insisted upon. In many
counties these needs are ignored.
“Also, if researchers go off-shore,”
Shanley noted, “and primates are cheap to use in
these countries, then the researchers most
likely will use more primates than they need to.
Again, one could make a case that importing
primates for research is in the interests of
animal welfare.”
Australia now has monkey breeding
colonies at Monash and Melbourne Universities.
Australian labs used 311 monkeys in 2003. A new
National Primate Breeding & Research Centre,
housing up to 600 monkeys, is to open in 2007 at
the Monash University Gippsland campus in
Churchill.

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